There are lots of different itineraries you could take when doing the Annapurna Circuit. In recent years the traditional route starting in Besisahar and finishing in Pokhara had been changed dramatically due to a new road which has been built along the hiking path in areas at the beginning and end of this trail. This has lead to lots of hikers deciding to shorten the hike and cutting out some or all of the days at both the beginning and end which feature walking along the road.
This is the Itinerary I used when I trekked the circuit in April 2017, I have included some information about additional things you can do en route which would add to your experience.
My itinerary was created to make sure we made it to the pass, none of us on our trip where at the peak of physical fitness, you may be able to go quicker than we did, but our aim was to make it to the top without getting altitude sickness. The beginning days we set our slow pace to get us ready for when we hit altitude, so we didn’t have to suddenly slow down.
This worked well and we all managed to get to the top! My top tip would be to set a slow pace but to make breaks short. Throughout the trek, we had a number of people who would steam past us practically sprinting up the hill for us to pass them a few hours later when they had become ill or worn out.
Today’s Annapurna circuit, which has been cut short from its original route due to a new road, begins with a day’s drive. Depending on how your organise your trip you can get either, a private car or bus from Kathmandu to the small town of Besisahar
You can walk from Besisahar, however, the more popular route is to take a jeep from Besisahar to your first night’s accommodation. I stayed in Sangya, this seemed to be a very popular place to start the trip, and was very busy. Here you can rest for the night and prepare for your first-day hiking. It is worth booking a tea house here in advance.
Drive time: 7-8 hours. This massively depends on traffic getting out of Kathmandu; it took us almost 12 hours.
Accommodation: Local tea house- Waterfall view
Today is the first actual day of trekking. But don’t worry we have eased you into it with a half day walk, as I said at the beginning it is important to get used to a very slow walking pace now. There are times the pace we walked at was very annoying, but as we got higher at reached altitude I was so thankful I had grown accustomed to the slow pace.
You will be walking to the small town of Chamje (1430m), on the way you will get an opportunity to see spectacular views of cascading waterfalls, and the deep wooded canyon.
If you want to do a walk in the afternoon, you can go further along the trail to the next village. There is a football pitch in the middle so you can even play a game with the local kids.
Walking time: 6 hours
Accommodation: Rainbow View Hotel (truly spectacular view over a waterfall on the other side of the canyon.)
Today we walk to Dharapani at 2100m, most of the trail today is ascending, it is fairly steep but easily do-able if you keep a slow and steady pace. The views on the trek will continue to be spectacular, make sure you stop every now and then to take in the amazing scenery- there is no point doing the hike without looking at the views!
I would recommend walking to Tal to get some lunch, you can stop part way in the morning for a snack and a rest. Lunch at Tal will give you the push of energy, (and an hour without shoes) you need to get to Dharapani. Tal has an amazing hyperlocal dish, which is only available in Tal. You can’t get it anywhere else on the trail! It’s a great vegetable curry with pumpkin and courgettes serves with this massive bread poof! You have to try it!
Dharapani is one of the sneaky towns, you get excited when you arrive in it, but it goes on forever! The Heaven Guest House is tucked away in a little back street which opens to the tea house. It’s a really nice little teahouse and was completely empty when I was there. There are cold showers in every room or you can pay for a hot shower.
Dharapani is really big and you will easily find somewhere to stay.
Note: Some people combine day 2 and 3, and walk straight to Dharapani.
Trekking time- around 7 hours
Accommodation- Heaven Guest House
Today starts off with a difficult climb to Timang, as we leave the Maryangdi gorge behind us. Well, no one said this was an easy hike! Once your out of the gorge the trail settles down and the landscape becomes a lot drier.
There are a number of villages that you will pass through on the journey today, so you should be able to interact with some of the locals in the area. You also hit the prayer wheel circuit today, and that will continue throughout the trek. Prayer wheels are placed everywhere within the entrance to a new district and in long rows in the middle of the street as well as in places of worship. The idea is the ‘wheels’ contain a prayer inside them when you spin the wheel as you go past, you are effectively saying the prayer. Like making the cross sign in Christianity, you pray without having to actually do it.
With Prayer wheels, you always spin the wheel to your right. But don’t worry you don’t have to spin any if you don’t want to.
You will finish the day in Chame, the capital of the Manage district. However this is not the capital in the way we would think, it’s a fairly small village, with almost no shops. If you are planning a rest day and re-stocking your supplies wait to do this in Manang.
Walking time: approx. 6 hours
Accommodation: Shangri-La guest house
By this stage, I had lost all concept of time. What day is it? Where am I? I have no idea what is going on in the world.
If you have somehow managed to keep track of your days, you will know you are leaving Chame and heading towards Pisang. There are a couple of different ways to get to Pisang, you can go straight along the road, which takes around 3 hours. In my opinion, this is what people do if they just want to have the bragging rights to having done the Annapurna Circuit.
We took the beautiful scenic route, this did include some serious hills, but it was worth it when we got to the secret wood, that everyone else seems to have missed and some of the most spectacular views on the surrounding mountains.
Along the route, you will come across hundreds of Apple trees, the apple plantation is a great place to stop and have your morning break, they also give free apples too!
Make sure you head to Upper Pisang and visit the monastery before you head down to Lower Pisang. This is the first night you will be at altitude for and so from now on will need to sleep lower than you have walked. This is pretty easy day on this trek.
Accommodation: Pisang Peak Guest House
We are getting close to the acclimatization day! We need to get to Manang so we can rest.
Today is a long day, partly because we got very distracted by animals and the scenery. By the time we arrive at our accommodation I am hungry, very tired, and slightly (ok very) moody!
We trek the Northern trail via upper Pisang and Ghyaru, which is known for its amazing views. The first hour of the walk is very easy, followed by a slightly more challenging climb with 22 cutbacks zig zagging up the side of the hill.
The day is filled with amazing views, and some great opportunities to interact with the local community. At the end of the day, you have a horrific hill to get into Manag. It’s not actually that steep, you have done much worse by now! But at the end of the day, it feels like a killer! Don’t worry there is a bed and some food once you get to the top!
Day 7- Acclimatization day
Today is all about getting your body used to the altitude if you have rushed up the mountain much quicker than I have suggested you may need to take a few days at this point. Some people while I was there had to stay for over a week because of getting altitude sickness.
Manang is the best place to stay for your acclimatization day, the village is set up for entertaining guests there are a number of cinemas within the hotels and some great places for short walks. During you day you need to make sure you go on a hike and reach the higher altitude, this helps your body acclimatize to you’re the conditions.
I would recommend the walk up to the monastery above the village, the monks their rarely ever leave and you can be invited in for tea and a blessing to help you cross the pass. The views are amazing from that height and give you a great view over some of the mountains. Manang, offers excellent views of Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Gangapurna and Chulu East. The walk takes approx. 3 hours. If you want to take another walk you can go down to the lakes below the village. The path down is rather steep but nothing too bad, not many people go so it tends to be quiet.
There is also lots of amazing food, and bakeries in Manang so you could treat yourself to a cake and coffee to keep warm!
Today we leave Manang and head towards Yak Kharka (4018 meters) the walk is approximately 7km, however, all measurements along the trail can vary vastly depending on the maps you read. It is a steady climb into the alpine region through Tengi and Gunsang, leaving the Marsyangdi valley and continuing along Jarsang Khola valley. Along the way, you can see Annapurna 2, 3 and 4. The walk takes around 5 hours and is best if you arrive here for lunch.
In the afternoon you can take a walk up one of the mountains around Yak Kharka, again this is important to both prepare your body for the pass and to make sure you are sleeping at a lower altitude than you will sleep in.
Day 9– The day before the pass.
Today is the last day before heading to the pass, and we walk towards Thorung Phedi (4450 meters). The altitude means today’s walk should be taken very slowly, this is a stroll, not a hike. It is a great time to take in the amazing views, trust me tomorrow you won’t care what it looks like! The walk will take us along some difficult routes today, there are very small pathways and at one part of the walk you have to pass a landslide area.
When we walk, one of the people in my group almost got hit by a rock falling, so make sure you walk quickly and quietly through this area.
Thorung Phedi is a very small area with only about 2 hotels, in the afternoon you will need to walk higher to an elevated point again. This will also be the start of tomorrows walk so it is great to get a feel for the steepest bit of the walk!
It will be a very early start the next day, so an early night is a good idea. Today’s walk will be around 5 hours.
Day 10- Thorung La Pass
Today is the day you will hike to the pass, and you will end the day in the sacred town of Muktinath.
You will need to wake at 3:30 to leave for 4:00. It is best to go to sleep dressed, it will be cold in the night and it makes getting ready easier in the morning. The start of the route to Thorung Las pass is very difficult, it takes about 2 hours to get to the next stop, this is where the highest hotel in the trek is. When you arrive at the hotel you will need to put your crampons on after this stop it gets very slippy from the snow and ice.
There is a coffee shop along the way, where you can stop and get a warm drink, it will be very busy and there isn’t anywhere to go to the toilet, people just go around the back of the building. The trail to the pass is steep but very easy to follow, as you get closer to the to you will have to walk around large snow dunes and will be battling against heavy winds and snow pushing you down.
Reaching the pass should take between 4-6 hours, you want to try and get their as early as possible to avoid harsher weather which normally comes in the afternoon and finishing your walk in the dark. Reaching the peak of the pass if adorned with prayer flags, a traditional stupa and stone cairns built by travellers.
Take a break, eat a chocolate bar and enjoy the stunning views. You will be amazed at how far you have climbed.
From now on you will be heading down hill- this is rather steep, and with the altitude will take a fair bit of brain power! Chabarbu is the next village at the end of the steep decline. Here is a good place to stop for a warm soup to try and thaw yourself out. And provide you with energy for the rest of the walk.
From here on, the trail crosses meadows, drops into a deep ravine, climbs out and follows a wide trail into Muktinath, a pilgrimage site held in great reverence by both Hindus and Buddhists. You can stop at the temples just before entering the city. They are happy for hikers to go into the temples, but you will need to take your shoes off to go inside the buildings.
Muktinath is a lovely town, although you may find you have no energy to enjoy the small shops and wonderful views. However, you have done the pass, you should feel amazing!
Day 11- Trek to Jomsom (3800 meters)
The trek to Jomsom is beautiful, seriously breathtaking. Some people decide to drive through to Jomson, but I would recommend taking the time to do this walk.
Today does have a ticking clock against it though, you need to try and cross the river bed before 2pm, as this is when the winds pick up and it can get dangerous with the dirt flying everywhere.
Veering off the main trekking trial can take you to the ancient village of Purang. Further up from the village, continue to take the less frequented route going past another village with a medieval feel to it, Jhong. From Jhong, descend to the Jhing Khola (river) following the course which we emerge on to Kagbeni.
From Kagbeni, you should rejoin the Annapurna circuit route to make a gradual descent through scenic, desert-like terrain, past charming villages and following the windy riverbed to Jomsom. Jomsom is a fantastic town, and where you will fly to Pokhara, enjoy a day in Pokhara before driving back to Kathmandu.
Have an amazing trip, and dont forget to let me know how it goes!